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Obama's Mideast envoy fails to reach deal with Israeli PM

RIA Novosti

17:24 16/09/2009 TEL AVIV/GAZA, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - The White House Mideast envoy completed on Wednesday a regular round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with no visible signs of progress on the issue of Jewish settlements.

George Mitchell will meet with Netanyahu again on Friday to look for ways of resolving the problem of Jewish outpost construction in the West Bank, the main obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

"They agreed to continue the discussion at a meeting to take place Friday after Senator Mitchell returns to Israel from a tour of the region's countries," the Israeli prime minister's press service said.

Netanyahu said on Monday that the country would not permanently freeze the construction of settlements in the West Bank.

"The Palestinians expect a complete halt to building; it is now clear that this will not happen," he told a parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee.

The United States has been urging Israel to agree to a freeze, to enable progress in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Israeli-U.S. meeting is aimed at helping start Israeli-Palestinian talks before the two sides meet at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23.

The issue of Jewish outposts has become the main obstacle to reviving peace talks with the Palestinians, and a sticking point in relations with the United States, Israel's main strategic ally.

Under the internationally agreed roadmap for Middle East peace, Israel is obliged to freeze all settlement construction activity, and remove unauthorized outposts built since 2001.

The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said last Wednesday that Arab countries see no reason to normalize relations with Israel while Tel Aviv continues building illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.


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